After a decade with the Houston Texans, JJ Watt is moseying on to greener pastures. The NFL defensive star announced he’s leaving the team, so here’s what you need to know.
“I wanted to do this on video instead of putting out a statement or doing a press conference or anything like that. Because I want you guys to hear directly from me,” J.J. Watt said on Friday (Feb. 12). From there, the 31-year-old defensive end announced that after playing for the Houston Texans for ten years, he was no longer part of the team. “I have sat down with the McNair family, and I have asked them for my release, and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time.”
“I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who’d never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me, besides draft night. I mean, you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family,” added JJ. After thanking the city of Houston, the fans, and the Texans’ organization, JJ said he was “excited and looking forward” to the next chapter in his life. “I’ve been working extremely hard. But at the same time, it is always tough to move on. And I just want you guys to know that I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL.”
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me… pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the NFL. Watt was synonymous with the Texans ( holding the franchise records for both sacks and forced fumbles), so the idea of him playing for another team is akin to Tom Brady playing for someone other than the New England Patriots. The announcement also brought along a wave of excitement, with fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, and other teams salivating for JJ to possibly join their squads. As the sports world waits to see where he goes next, here’s what you need to know:
1. JJ Watt Was Born In Wisconsin
J.J. was born Justin James Watt on Mar. 22, 1989 to parents Connie and John Watt. As a teen, he played football at his alma-mater Pewaukee High School, where he earned numerous accolades, including the Woodland Conference Player of the Year award and the teams’ MVP title. J.J. is the oldest of three siblings, and his brothers Derek and T.J. are also in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. JJ Watt Hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ In 2020
J.J. is the 11th NFL player to host NBC’s long-running sketch program, joining football stars like brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, Tom Brady and Joe Montana. It’s been a few years since an NFL star has taken the stage, however: Tom hosted back in 2005, Peyton appeared in 2007, and Eli in 2012. J.J. is also the 27th athlete to have the honor, making for a pretty exclusive club!
3. JJ Watt Has Acted In Movies & Television
While J.J. is no stranger to cameras playing pro-football, the Wisconsin native has dipped his toes into the acting world over the years. The charismatic defensive end made an appearance in 2016’s Bad Moms taking on the role of Coach Craig. He’s also played himself in a 2015 episode of New Girl along with a number of cameos in the football-inspired series The League. J.J. has experience hosting, too, taking the helm on 2016’s CMT Music Awards alongside sports reporter Erin Andrews.
4. JJ Watt Is Married
The 30-year-old popped the question to girlfriend Kealia Ohai, 27, in 2019. “I’m the luckiest man in the world. #SheSaidYes,” J.J. tweeted on May 26, 2019. Kealia is also a professional athlete — getting her start as a young girl — and now plays in the National Women’s Soccer League on the Chicago Red Stars. The couple began dating back in 2016 after meeting through her sister Megan, who is married to J.J.’s teammate Brian Cushing and made their relationship public in 2017. “The rumors are true. We are dating,” Kealia said on the 2 Up Front Soccer podcast back in 2017. “I’ve known J.J. for a really long time, and we’ve always been really great friends.” The couple tied the knot in February 2020, shortly after his SNL hosting stint.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 27, 2019
4. JJ Watt Is A Celebrated Football Player
After a successful stint in college football with the Wisconsin Badgers, J.J. was drafted by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s also a five-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection and earned the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award a whopping three times during his first five years on the Texans. The star player was also dubbed Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2017 for his charitable endeavors, including raising $37 million for families affected by Hurricane Harvey.